Review – After You Die by Eva Dolan

By | January 17, 2016

Dawn Prentice was already known to the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit. 

The previous summer she had logged a number of calls detailing the harassment she and her severely disabled teenage daughter were undergoing. Now she is dead – stabbed to death whilst Holly Prentice has been left to starve upstairs. DS Ferreira, only recently back serving on the force after being severely injured in the line of duty, had met with Dawn that summer. Was she negligent in not taking Dawn’s accusations more seriously? Did the murderer even know that Holly was helpless upstairs while her mother bled to death? 

Whilst Ferreira battles her demons, determined to prove she’s up to the frontline, DI Zigic is drawn into conflict with an official seemingly resolved to hide the truth about one of his main suspects. Can either officer unpick the truth about mother and daughter, and bring their killer to justice?

I don’t read many books that would be classified as “crime”. But when I choose to read one, I always choose carefully. When author Eva Dolan asked if I’d like to read and review After You Die – published by Harvill Secker in hardcover and for kindle on 14th January – I’d already read enough accolades for her writing that I knew it was a book I wanted to read. It’s rarely ideal, picking up a book that’s third in a series – but in this instance, it was no problem at all. There’s just enough background that you can join the series quite comfortably, although I am rather kicking myself that I didn’t start from book one – the first two in the Zigic and Ferreira series are Long Way Home and Tell No Tales – because I really loved this one.

I like my reading to be character driven, and I immediately engaged with both Zigic and Ferreira. We first meet Zigic painting the nursery pink for the imminent arrival of a baby daughter, very much the family man. Ferreira’s much more edgy – damaged in more ways than one, impulsive, quick to anger. They make an excellent and fascinating team, working together in the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit. 

The story is shocking and impossible to put down – the murder of a mother also resulting in the death of her severely disabled daughter. The investigation is so well done – a large cast of characters, everyone a suspect (I think I had most of them in the frame before the story ended), as we watch Zigic and Ferreira peel back the layers to uncover the truth. The story has a bit of everything – assisted suicide, on-line bullying, gang crime, social commentary – all wrapped up in a really gripping story. 

But this book was so much more than a gripping investigation. There are the most wonderfully complex characters, their secrets slowly uncovered. Young Nathan was quite excellently portrayed – and I really enjoyed his story, which could so easily have confused things but instead brought an extra dimension through the introduction of the relationship between agencies who should have been working together. The writing is exceptional – very easy to read (I read this book in one glorious sitting), with touches of gentle humour to lift it, and a deft touch with dialogue – and it makes an uncomfortable and unsettling story a reading pleasure. The small town setting was perfectly portrayed, and very vivid.

Very highly recommended – but if you’re planning on waiting for September’s paperback, do think about starting the series from the beginning. There are no problems picking this one up as a standalone, but it would save you having to backtrack later – something I most definitely plan to do!

My thanks to author Eva Dolan and publishers Harvill Secker for my advance reading copy.

Eva Dolan is an Essex-based copywriter and intermittently successful poker player. Shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger for unpublished authors when she was just a teenager, her debut novel Long Way Home, the start of a major new crime series starring two detectives from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit, was published in 2014 to widespread critical acclaim. 

Follow Eva on Twitter: she also has an excellent blog, wonderfully entitled Loitering With Intent. 

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